Generally speaking, navigating the boundaries of the law can be very difficult, and, for most people, impossible without the help of a professional. Can a trespasser sue for an injury sustained while trespassing on someone else’s property? Property laws are complex, and determining who is liable for injuries can be tricky. If you were on someone else’s land or property, it all depends on the circumstances whether they had a duty to protect you or not and whether they can be found liable for your injuries.
The Legal Landscape of Trespassing in Kansas City
When it comes to trespassing laws, generally speaking, a trespasser is someone who enters another person’s property without permission or authority to do so. A property owner has a certain level of protection against liability for injuries suffered by trespassers. However, in certain circumstances, a trespasser might be able to file a valid claim against a property owner. It is best to consult an experienced premises liability lawyer.
Property Owner Rights and Trespassers
It is crucial for a person to maintain clear property lines on their land, by posting signs, for example, to dissuade potential trespassers. And even if someone has breached clearly market property lines and is trespassing, the law doesn’t give carte blanche to deliberately harm the trespasser.
Under Missouri law, deadly force is not permissible to protect property as a general rule. The only exception might be in cases where self-defense is an issue.
If trespassers violate clearly marked lines and boundaries and go onto private property, trespasser injuries are, typically, not the liability of the property owner, and trespassers cannot normally recover compensation. However, there are exceptions to this.
When Is a Property Owner Liable for a Trespasser’s Injuries?
While the general rule is that property owners are not responsible for a trespasser’s injuries, exceptions exist.
Willful and Wanton Conduct
If a property owner engages in willful and wanton conduct – that is, they act with a reckless disregard for the safety of others – they may be found liable for a trespasser’s injuries.
One example of this could be a property owner who keeps a dog with known dangerous tendencies on the property, and this dog injures a trespasser. This might be an instance where the property owner’s negligence could make the property owner liable for injuries sustained by the trespasser.
Attractive Nuisance and Trespassers
Missouri law recognizes the doctrine of attractive nuisance, which could make a property owner liable for a trespasser’s injuries, particularly when the trespasser is a child. If a property owner has something on their property – like a pool or a trampoline – that could attract children, they have a duty to secure it to ensure the safety of anyone who might access it, whether they are invited guests or not.
Discovered Trespassers vs Undiscovered Trespassers
Another important distinction is whether the homeowner is aware of the trespass. If a property owner is aware of the presence of a trespasser, particularly if they expect continued trespassing, the owner has a duty to warn the trespasser of any known hazards on the property that could result in injury. This could be a dog, an open hole, or other known hazards. If a property owner fails to do this, they could be held liable for the trespasser’s injuries.
For example, imagine someone looks out the window and sees a group of teens cutting through their property on the way home from school. The homeowner knows there’s a dangerous hole in the yard that could cause injury if the trespassers continue. The homeowner can expect the teens to “continue trespassing,” i.e. to keep moving across the property. He or she must now either instruct the teens to leave the property immediately, or warn them about the hole and allow them to continue.
If one of the teens is injured and the property owner did nothing to stop it, the owner could be considered responsible.
Can a Trespasser Sue for an Injury?
The answer is yes, a trespasser can sue, but only under certain circumstances. If they were injured due to the property owner’s willful and wanton conduct, if they (or their child) were attracted by an attractive nuisance, or if they were injured by a known hazard that the property owner failed to warn them about, they may be able to recover compensation. It’s important to remember that the law seeks to protect the rights of all individuals, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their injuries. Consult with a personal injury lawyer to find out if you have a case.
Despite the general rule favoring the rights of property owners in such a situation, exceptions always remain, so trespassers, even while operating outside the bounds of law, are not completely without protection. Injured parties should always seek a free consultation with a lawyer to consider their options.
Talk With Experts in Trespass Law
At Holman Schiavone, LLC, we are committed to providing expert legal advice and guidance in these complex matters. As specialists in Kansas City and Missouri law, we’re well-equipped to help.
If you have suffered an injury while trespassing, or if you are a property owner concerned about potential liability, give us a call at 816-399-5149.
We offer free consultations and are ready to provide the legal support you need. Remember, everyone has rights, and it is our job to protect yours. Do not hesitate to reach out and let us guide you through your unique legal situation.